INTERNATIONAL MANDATES ON IUU FISHING
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing poses a threat to marine wildlife and ocean health. Taking place in contravention or outside of established, legal fisheries management frameworks, it can lead to or exacerbate overfishing and may often violate conservation measures, e.g., by using gear types or fishing methods abolished for their environmental impact, or by disregarding spatial or temporal refuges established to allow marine wildlife to recover. IUU fishing often supplies illegal trade, driven by lucrative end markets, and undermines food security of local communities (MRAG, 2005). Estimates for the scale of the problem are notoriously difficult to come by. The World Bank in 2017 listed estimates ranging from 11-36 billion USD for the total value of Illegal fishing, some of which seem to incorrectly conflate all IUU Fishing under the term “illegal fishing.” A recent estimate put the revenue of the illicit trade in fish products alone at 9-17 billion USD (Sumaila et al, 2020) and corresponding to ca 23 % of traded fish products originating from IUU fishing. In 2011, between 20-32% of fish sold to consumers in the United States were estimated to be sourced from IUU fishing (Pramod et al, 2014).
The actors behind illegal fishing are often professional and well-organized, operating across multiple jurisdictions (Teletsky, 2015). Effectively countering transnational organized crime requires cooperation across different nations (Teletsky, 2015) and, next to bilateral and regional initiatives, several multilateral agreements exist that address this in a general context (the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime : UNTOC) or peripheral to a broader mandate e.g., the illegal international trade in certain species (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora : CITES).
Sea Shepherd Legal will help countries strengthen protective legislation for sharks and rays in a new project undertaken on behalf of the Secretariat for the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
The project will entail gap analysis of selected countries legislation, the development of legislative guidance and model laws, as well as training material. We are proud to announce that the CMS Secretariat has entrusted Sea Shepherd Legal with this important task, which furthers the conservation work of CMS and its Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks (Sharks MOU) – an international agreement with 48 signatory nations.
In April 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Secretary of the Interior to review 27 national monuments – including marine monuments – with an eye toward shrinking or completely rescinding them. Later in the month, he signed a second executive order asking the Secretary of Commerce to review all marine national monuments and marine sanctuaries designated or expanded since 2007, to assess “the opportunity costs associated with potential energy and mineral exploration and production.”
The Pacific marine national monuments are on the frontline of climate change and extinction threats for marine wildlife and coral reefs. They represent one of the final frontiers and havens for wildlife in the world and comprise the most widespread collection of coral reef, seabird, and shorebird protected areas on the planet under a single nation’s jurisdiction. It is therefore imperative that the Trump administration’s designs to weaken or remove fishing restrictions in the monuments be thwarted.
Sea Shepherd Legal and its co-counsel Earthrise Law Center filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction yesterday in the U.S. Court of International Trade relating to its lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, NOAA Fisheries, and the Treasury Department. The purpose of the motion is to ensure that swift action is taken to prevent the impending extinction of New Zealand’s Māui dolphin. Scientists advise that the death of even one Māui dolphin could mean loss of the entire species.
The , , cites violations of the “imports provision” of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This provision requires that these U.S. agencies prohibit imports from foreign fisheries, like New Zealand’s gillnet and trawl fisheries, that fail to meet U.S. standards of marine mammal bycatch prevention. A preliminary injunction, if granted, will force the defendants and New Zealand to act immediately to protect Māui dolphins from bycatch during the coming months or years before final judgment is rendered in the lawsuit.
The decline of the Māui dolphin, which at last count consisted of an estimated 57 individuals, is eerily similar to the fate of Mexico’s vaquita porpoise – the most endangered marine mammal in the world. Sea Shepherd has been since 2014. Like the vaquita, the Māui dolphin has an extremely small range, occupying only the coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Also , the greatest threat to the Māui dolphin is entanglement in fishing nets. Unlike the perils facing the vaquita, however, the nets that drown the Māui dolphin are legally sanctioned by government authorities.
Despite being so perilously close to extinction, the government of New Zealand continues to allow the use of gillnets and trawls within the Māui dolphin’s range. “New Zealand has an obligation to protect the iconic Māui dolphin,” says Brett Sommermeyer, Legal Director for Sea Shepherd Legal. “Government officials there are well aware that the only effective way to do so is to prohibit the use of gillnets and trawl in its habitat.” New Zealand’s recent decision on its Threat Management Plan announced just last week is “wholly insufficient,” says Sommermeyer, emphasizing, “it clearly places economics before conservation and leaves a substantial portion of the dolphin’s habitat unprotected.”
Sea Shepherd Legal is closely watching this development and is considering all legal options for responding to the Trump Administration's illegal action to open protected and highly biodiverse marine areas to commercial fishing.
Sea Shepherd Legal and its co-counsel, Earthrise Law Center, filed a lawsuit on 21 May 2020, on behalf of Sea Shepherd New Zealand and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society against the U.S. Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, NOAA Fisheries, and the Treasury Department.These agencies have failed to take legally mandated action to ban imports from the New Zealand fisheries that are driving the Māui dolphin to extinction.
SEA SHEPHERD LEGAL PRESENTS AT THE V CONGRESO NACIONAL DE FISCALES ESPECIALIZADOS EN MATERIA AMBIENTAL DE PERÚ AND RECEIVES COLLABORATION AWARD FROM PERU’S ATTORNEY GENERAL.
Since 2017, Sea Shepherd Legal has been providing capacity support to the government of Perú on the issues of IUU fishing and enhancement of legal protections for marine wildlife. We are extremely proud and grateful to have this ongoing opportunity.
Sea Shepherd Legal and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society pledge their continued legal and vessel support to Perú.
Sea Shepherd Legal was honored to take part in the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) from 15-22 February in Gandhinagar, India. The conference operated under the theme, “Migratory species connect the planet, and together we welcome them home.” At the Conference, Sea Shepherd Legal updated the Parties on its progress in investigating legal gaps in certain Range State legislation for the ongoing whale shark and Atlantic humpback dolphin concerted actions and pledged to provide legal support for Gabon’s proposed concerted action for guitarfish, wedgefish, and sawfish (collectively often referred to as “rhino rays”). Sea Shepherd Legal was pleased to see the CMS Parties’ acceptance of Gabon’s proposal by consensus and is prepared to assist with its implementation.
Sea Shepherd Legal is working with governments and organizations from around the world to protect migratory marine species throughout the week at the United Nations' Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species in Gandhinagar, India. During today's opening ceremonies, Luca Parmitano, Commander of the International Space Station, shared his unique perspective on the importance of protecting migratory wildlife - see Message to Protect Migratory Species of Our Planet.